Evidence is mounting that people at the bottom are increasingly stuck without skills or pathways to rise. Research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston shows that in the 1980s, 21 percent of Americans in the bottom income quintile would rise to the middle quintile or higher over a 10-year period. By 2005, that percentage had fallen by nearly a third, to 15 percent. And a 2007 Pew analysis showed that mobility is more than twice as high in Canada and most of Scandinavia than it is in the United States.
This is a major problem, and advocates of free enterprise have been too slow to recognize it. It is not enough to assume that our system blesses each of us with equal opportunities. We need to fight for the policies and culture that will reverse troubling mobility trends. We need schools that serve children’s civil rights instead of adults’ job security. We need to encourage job creation for the most marginalized and declare war on barriers to entrepreneurship at all levels, from hedge funds to hedge trimming. And we need to revive our moral appreciation for the cultural elements of success.
– From A Formula for Happiness, NYT 12/15/2013